Applejack rested her head against the table, her face covered on all sides by her loose mane as she sat in silence with only the tick of the clock to keep her company. Her system was slowly loosing the effect of the alcohol which prevented her mind from being able to hide what she had done to her best friend. In the end of the day she had no choice, but that was little comfort to the grieving mare.
Big Macintosh opened the door, leaning through the entrance to his sister. "Ah saw you settled the debt problem." He spoke in a particularly cold manner considering the occasion to which Applejack didn't respond. "Ya did the right thin-"
"Get out." Applejack spoke for the first time since the pier, her brother left without another word leaving her to further regret her actions alone. But it wasn't like she deserved any better. Applejack knew there was no forgiveness for what she had done.
Several minutes passed before the orange mare finally raised her head leaving a wet table beneath her. She had to get her mind off what happened, not as she deserved to, but rather because she still needed to run her business. Applejack would be damned if she stopped now after the cost it demanded. She made her way down a side passage in the office, trotting down the echoing steps to the hidden rooms behind the casino. As she made her way past a bolted room she heard a quiet voice from the inside. "C, can I please go home yet miss."
Applejack remained silent, being unable to gain any fake emotions to reply with. The voice from behind the door began to cry softly as she realised the pony outside had left her alone again.
Rainbow Dash limped her way through the dark streets, her hooves splashing at the puddles of rain water littering the barely visible floor. She would usually fear getting a cold if her body didn't have far more serious issues at hoof. She knew the current street well, even in the dense darkness. Her home used to be here, before she lost it to her debts. 'I shouldn't have gotten so carried away, how could I expect Pinkie to live in the rain...' The injured mare's thoughts trailed off as she made her way down the following street, passing behind the back alley of the Apple Family warehouse to a series of large skips. Her new home.
Rainbow heard soft crying as she made her way to a gap between two rusted skips. Under a single piece of cardboard barely protecting from the rain, the small pink pony lay curled in a ball crying into her hooves. Rainbow was filled with both love for her sister, and hatred for how she allowed Pinkie to live in such a horrible state. Rainbow carefully lowered herself to the wet floor, wrapping her legs around her sister.
"Dashie?" Pinkie withdrew from her hooves to look her sister in the eyes, within seconds she wrapped herself around her injured body in a tight hug. "I was so scared."
"It's okay, I'm here now." Rainbow looked down at her dulled watch before tearing up, rubbing her neck against her sisters. "I won't leave you yet. Not yet." She pulled out from the embrace hearing her sister's stomach growling. "Don't worry, I'll go get you something." Pinkie Pie sat up wiping tears from her eyes, watching with a mix of love and worry as her sister limped away.
Rainbow Dash was a pony of few skills, but with the hidden wings beneath her tattered waistcoat she managed to sneak away from a local flower shop with two wings full of poor tasting flora. She sat down by her welcoming sister as she opened her wings with a smile. "Thanks Sis." Pinkie happily began to nibble at the bland flowers, which to her, tasted like a deliciously filling meal. Rainbow softly stroked her sister's mane, enjoying the sight of her being happy.
The broken mare checked down to see her watch again, which she could swear looked even duller than before. She knew stealing was wrong, she always knew it. But what other option did she have, she didn't want to watch her sister starve. "Sis." Pinkie's sweet voice silenced the thief's thoughts, offering her sister one of the flowers she was eating. "You need to eat to."
Rainbow reluctantly accepted her sister's gift, taking the bland flower in her lips without chewing the delicate petals, passing it sideways as she silently regretted her past. As she lay in thought she heard soft crying hidden behind the splashes of rain, almost to silent to hear. "Don't cry Sis, I'm still here."
"I'm not crying." Pinkie remained locked on her sister, enjoying the comfort of her eyes. "Not since you came back."
The soft crying continued, becoming more audible with each second that the injured mare paid attention, the cries didn't sound distant, but rather close, very close. Rainbow inched away from her sister to follow her ears, one of the few still reliable parts of her body. With each step the sound became clearer as she sneaked alongside the warehouse, until finally she found a broken window hidden behind a splintered crate.
Rainbow peered inside through the broken glass. The room was littered with open boxes of various bottled beverages, sadly empty, which was also the case for the rest of the damp storeroom. But one thing caught her eyes, in the far corner barely visible from her current position lay a small yellow pony she hadn't seen before crying in her hooves. Gathering her trade skills Rainbow quickly and carefully unlocked the window through the sharp glass, silently opening it and lowering herself inside.
"Who's there?" The crying mare attempted to retreat further into the wall as the intruder landed on the floor, staring at her beaten body with horror before shielding her face behind her flowing pink mane.
"Relax, I'm not here to hurt you." Rainbow froze in place to the sight of the prisoner, her body was unharmed and surprisingly clean. But one thing caught her eyes, two delicate wings fluttering helplessly beneath a taught iron cylinder. "Are you okay?"
The genuine concern in her voice soothed the crying pegasus who managed to slowly retreat from behind her sheltering mane. "Y, yes." She stared at the approaching stranger, and could only hazard a guess to the level of injuries she must have suffered. "You're hurt."
"Don't worry about me." Rainbow felt her heart warm to the stranger's care, most ponies she knew wouldn't lift a hoof to mention her injuries or forbid show any actual compassion. She took the flowers from her mouth to give them to the crying mare. "Who are you, and why are you crying?"
"M, my name is Fluttershy. I'm just really lonely, I can't find my parents." Fluttershy accepted the flowers, softly chewing on them. It was clear she didn't approve of the taste, but was thankful for the gift regardless.
'You and everypony here.' Rainbow's heart wrenched in agony to the thought as she sat down beside her, yet another pony loosing their parents to the forsaken town. At least she never knew her parents and was spared the pain of loosing them, the same of which couldn't be said for her new friend. "Where did you last see them?"
Fluttershy cautiously moved closer to Rainbow, resting her head against her shoulder. "We went camping in the forest, we were looking for cute animals for my birthday, my parents are really kind." She hesitated placing her legs around the injured mare for support. "But one night I heard some roaring, they said they didn't want us there. I told my parents and we left but." Rainbow began to hug her back, gently stroking her pink mane as she would for her sister. "I just kept hearing them roaring about how juicy I looked, I flew as far as I could."
"I just want to see them again." Rainbow felt ready to interrupt her before she continued. "The Apples said they would find them."
"Wait, the Apples?" Rainbow stared at the pony in her hooves shortly before looking around her, the abandoned room was clearly uncared for and no place for a guest. "How did you find them, and why are you in this storeroom?"
Fluttershy seemed to grow a small smile. "I was at the edge of the woods when I flew into them, he said his name was Big Macintosh. I told him about what the roars said and my parents, and he told me he would look for them. One of the others, ermm Applejack, took me back here for safety."
Rainbow grew more concerned as the discussion continued, Applejack had never talked about any of this to her. They never kept secrets from each other. "So she brought you here? But what's with that...harness?" She struggled to find the word, rubbing her hoof over the taught iron band restraining the pegasus' wings.
"She said it would keep me safe..." Fluttershy began wiping tears from her eyes again. "But I've been here for days, she gives me food, and lets me talk to the animals. But she never mentions my parents, I just want to go home." The timid pegasus continued to cry in her friend's hooves.
"Dashie? Are you okay?" Pinkie's voice called over from the window she stuck her head through.
"Don't worry she's nice." Rainbow calmed the worrying pegasus before looking back to her sister happily. "Yeah, come inside it's warmer."
"Thanks Sis." Upon noticing the yellow pony Pinkie quickly rushed over to hug her. "Hey I'm Pinkie Pie."
"Ermm, h, hello Pinkie." Fluttershy stuttered to the sudden interaction from the new pony.
Rainbow gently stroked both ponies manes. "Her name is Fluttershy, you two should get along well."
Pinkie stared intently at the new pony, she could see the same sadness in her emerald eyes that she herself felt, the loneliness and worry of being unloved. It was the same look she noticed in her sister as well, the look she always tried to fade away with whatever laughter and fun she could bring. The only thing she ever could do well. "Is she, our sister?"
Rainbow smiled happily to the innocent words, stroking the yellow pony's mane. "Yeah, she can be our sister if she likes." The injured mare felt a warmth in her heart as her pink sister began to hug her new friend, or perhaps new sister. Fluttershy remained quiet but seemed to enjoy no longer being alone and began to slowly accept Pinkie's enthusiastic nature, the nature she was pleased to finally see again after her weeks of sadness and inactivity. 'The weeks I ruined everything.' Rainbow knew it was her fault, but it was to late to change what happened. Looking down at her watch she knew she couldn't change the past, she could only delay the result. Clenching the watch in her hooves, Rainbow could feel each tick of her life as it passed.
Hearing her sisters chatting, or rather Pinkie chatting and Fluttershy listening quietly, Rainbow knew what she had to do. She failed to put her sister first in the past, but now she would never make that mistake again. She couldn't afford to make that mistake again. "Fluttershy."
"Yes, ermm." The quiet pegasus looked over to her pink sister to think of her words. "D, Dashie?"
Rainbow felt the same warmth again, before remembering she failed to introduce herself. "Sorry, I'm Rainbow Dash, but you can call me whatever you like." She lowered her hoof to aid Fluttershy up. "Do you want us to go look for your parents?"
Fluttershy almost burst with joy, before returning to her worried stance. "B, but the Apples said they would do it, and they said I should stay here for the time being."
As much as Rainbow Dash liked her best friend, she couldn't just pretend she didn't see what was happening. She loved Applejack but this room, the refusal to move, the restraints, anypony could see Fluttershy was nothing more than a prisoner here. 'Why would she foalnap her? Why would she do it to anypony? Applejack was never like this.' Rainbow shook the thoughts from her head, thoughts she really didn't want to think about. "We could always help them, to help find your parents quicker." She was relieved to see a reassuring nod from her new friend. There was no way of knowing if her parents were still alive, yet alone where they were if they did manage to survive. But the least she could do was to set her free and try. "Do you know how to take that off?" She asked pointing down at the constricting iron.
"Applejack had the key, but she never gave it to me..."
"That's okay, let's just go." Rainbow tried to hide the conflict in her mind as she painfully climbed through the narrow window and into the damp alley, she leaned back through the window to help pull her sister up. The weight strained her degenerating body but she managed to pull through.
"Thanks Sis." Pinkie Pie hugged her sister as she waited in the rain for her new friend to join them.
"Come on, take my hoof." Rainbow leaned through the window again, she could see the concern in her friend's emerald eyes. "Don't worry I'll keep you safe, I promise." Fluttershy reached forward, and with great struggle she managed to lift the iron wearing mare into the rain.
Fluttershy began to rub her legs, shivering slightly to the cold rain hitting her coat. She felt a sudden warmth overtake her as her guardian softly placed a tattered waistcoat over her back. "Here. You deserve it more than me." Fluttershy turned to smile at her caring guardian, before gazing down at her now naked body. Her light blue coat was covered in countless cuts and bruises, some sections of her body even seemed to be missing, as if...eaten. But beyond the fearful sight she was calmed to see two delicate wings mirroring her own, but without the multiple fractures.
"Oh, I didn't notice you were a pegasus." Fluttershy smiled warmly gazing into her guardian's eyes, finding solace in the racial similarity. But the longer she gazed the more concerned she became to her friend's silence, it was as if she didn't know what she meant. "Y, you have wings, and can fly, like me."
"I guess I am." Rainbow replied quietly lost in thought, both Fluttershy and Rarity used that word to describe her. She always figured her extra limbs were a deformity of some kind since she was the only pony she knew who had them, she never knew others existed like her, how could she know.
Fluttershy gently brushed her hoof across her guardian's tattered wings trying to comfort her. Although Rainbow remained silent she could see the worry in her tear filled eyes, the thoughts of her wings being so alien to her. "I'm sure you would make a great flyer." She gazed down to her wings, fluttering them helplessly beneath the heavy restraints before looking back into the violet eyes of her friend, hiding the discomfort of the iron cylinder beneath a smile. "I would love to help."
"Come on we should keep moving, there's no point standing in the rain." Rainbow forced the scene to an end, the revelations of her life being to painful to discuss. The broken mare stood motionless merely watching as the others moved ahead, unflinching to the cold rain hitting her coat as she stared at Fluttershy's golden wings, symbols of freedom chained down by the iron cast. All she wanted her entire life was to escape from the gutter, to live a happy life with her sister. She never realised she had the ability to fly away from her miserable existence. Instead she used her wings to steal from others, desecrating the very gift she was given.
The wounded pegasus cupped the watch in her hooves, staring down at the struggling hands depicting her declining life. She drew her hoof close to her chest, closing the tainted gold case against her heart as the rain washed the tears from her face. It was to late for her, she knew her dying body wouldn't last long enough to learn to escape to the skies, yet alone be able to carry her sister away with her. Rainbow knew the only chance Pinkie had of escaping her depressing life lay in the freedom of the innocent pegasus untainted by her own corruption. The pegasus she was determined to save.